You Can’t Make This Up
by Al Michaels with L. Jon Wertheim
William Morrow, 2014
[Review by new TWJ contributor Jim. We are excited to have Jim as a part of the TWJ team, and look forward to future reviews!]
When I saw Al Michaels had written a book, I knew I would have to get my hands on a copy to hear all the great stories he had to tell. I was not disappointed in the least. Al was flawless in relaying hundreds of stories over his career and beforehand as well. Born to a loving mother and father in Brooklyn, Al never had to eat vegetables and grew up watching the Dodgers at Ebbets Field after attending school n the morning because the school was too crowded for him to go all day. Then he moved to Los Angeles and attended Arizona State University to develop his broadcasting skills.
Of his many stories, one of the highlights for me was him talking about his first impression of Cincinnati when he arrived. He was the broadcaster of a minor league team in Hawaii before he came to Cincinnati, so he was taken aback by the winter scenery. He also felt that living in the great state of Kentucky was a little too much of a step back from Hawaii. He tells of a time when Reds broadcaster Joe Nuxhall cussed out some players who were playing a joke on him and it went out on the broadcast. Growing up listening to Nuxhall, I laughed, picturing him doing something like that. All in all, You Can’t Make This Up is a great book for any sports fan. Al has experiences in many different sports, so there is something for everyone.
Pink eye sidelined Bob Costas from the Winter Olympics, and TWJ contributor Patrick was on top of it, sending in two “fun cards” highlighting this strange turn of events. Above Patrick pays homage to Garbage Pail Kids, one of the greatest non-baseball trading card series of all-time. The banner is from Series 10 (September 1987) and later; I personally prefer the banner from the first nine, as those are the cards I remember best. The art for this actually comes from the All-New Series 5 released in April 2006.
The second “fun card” TWJ contributor Patrick sent in hearkens back to the 1991 Studio set and uses an actual photo of Costas with his crazy glasses.
Thanks for the submission Patrick! Great job as always!
by Jack McCallum
Ballantine Books, 2012
In 1992, everyone in America was a basketball fan thanks to Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and the rest of the “Dream Team” that played for the United States in the Summer Olympics in Barcelona. For the first time in history, professional basketball players were permitted to compete in the Games, as each country was truly allowed to send its best representatives. Author Jack McCallum, covering the team for Sports Illustrated, recounts the year that basketball ruled the Olympics more than any time before.
McCallum spends the first hundred pages talking about the team members and the selection process. In addition to Jordan, Johnson, and Bird, there was Scottie Pippen, Charles Barkley, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Chris Mullin, John Stockton, Karl Malone, Clyde Drexler, and the token college guy, Christian Laettner. The underlying theme in almost every chapter of this first hundred pages was not so much how these players deserved their spot on the roster, but why Pistons guard Isiah Thomas was excluded from the list. Of course, Thomas was not the only player that could have been argued for, but he was the most glaring omission.
After dealing with each of these players, McCallum gets into the Games themselves, beginning with the practice sessions in San Diego and on through to the final game in Barcelona. Fresh interviews of the players involved bring back memories of Toni Kukoc, Drazen Petrovic, and other opponents. A deep reverence is displayed for the late Chuck Daly. However, McCallum does not pull punches on his subjects, painting Jordan at times as a bitter ego-maniac, Bird as a foul-mouthed trash talker, Laettner as a spoiled brat. People mature over time, and act differently depending on their surroundings (Barkley being the exception to those two statements), but McCallum presents them as they were at the time without apology.
The impact the Dream Team had on youngsters internationally, from Tony Parker to Dirk Nowitzki, will never be duplicated. It was a grand experiment that worked in 1992, even if it never worked the same afterward. Never again will there be a group of players with so much talent and influence. Dream Team by Jack McCallum is a great tribute to that great team, and should be on the bookshelf of every basketball fan.
I don’t remember how I found out that Ramon Martinez was on the Dominican Republic’s baseball team in the 1984 Olympics. There was probably an article in the paper, and I got the idea to make a card in the style of the 1985 Topps USA Olympic subset. I’m sure the uniform is not right, and he may not have had any facial hair back then either. But I thought it was a decent idea, so I ran with it.